Maryland shall issue gun cary permits to comply with the Supreme Court
The Free State no longer "may issue " the Second Amendment right
I grew up in Baltimore City, and my father was one of a tiny few Marylanders who could legally carry a gun outside the home. My Dad got the permit in the 1980s after showing the state police his bank deposit slips that proved he carried large amounts of cash from his company, which was in a high-crime part of the city.
The police investigated and determined that my Dad had a “good and substantial reason” to legally carry a gun outside the home. No one – not my Dad, not the state police – considered that his “good and substantial reason” was just the Second Amendment. It wasn’t even a particularly controversial policy for the government to decide if my Dad was in enough specific danger to legally carry a gun for self defense.
Maryland is a blue state and has strict gun control laws. For almost 100 years, its citizens were in the same boat as those in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachussets - and until recently, Washington, D.C. and denied the constitutional right to bear arms. Not being allowed to exercise the Second Amendment was the norm.
But that mindset changed this century, mostly in the past 10 years, as carry permits became popular across the country. And finally, when the Supreme Court had the votes, it took on the gun carry permit case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) v. Bruen in 2021.
And last month, the court issued the landmark ruling that make it clear that these blue states which had been infringing on citizens' gun rights for generations hit a dead-end. The ruling in, which is now known now as the “Bruen decision”, says states cannot weigh the need in determining who gets a gun carry permit.
On July 7, the Maryland State Police minimally updated its permitting licensing website that says you no longer need to attach documents of evidence of need with your application for “personal protection.” This means people like my father, who took copies of bank deposit slips to the police, no longer have to prove anything.
I called Mark Pennak, the president of the aptly named non-profit group “Maryland Shall Issue” (MSI). I asked him how he felt about this long effort finally coming to a victory.
“I’m delighted,” Pennak said. “I think it’s the right decision legally but also morally. People forget self-defense is a social good. Two and a half million potential victims are not victims every year because they conceal carry.”
The political fallout
Unlike New York Democrat Gov. Hochul who is fighting against the Supreme Court, Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is complying with the Constitution.
Hogan directed the Maryland State Police to “immediately suspend” using the reasoning standard when reviewing applications for what they call “Wear and Carry Permits.”
But the Bruen decision infuriates anti-gun liberal politicians who wrongly believe that guns in the hands of anyone make society more dangerous.
Brian Frosh, Maryland’s state attorney general, said after the Supreme Court decision came down the decision:
means more deaths and more pain in a country already awash in gun violence. If the norm is that people can carry firearms, our neighborhoods, our streets and other public places will become more dangerous.
This is Maryland’s House Speaker Adrienne Jones:
Maryland State Senate President Bill Ferguson said Hogan’s decision to comply with SCOTUS means they are facing a “cirsis of unfettered firearms”
Pennak says this is all talk. Frosh was forced to send a letter to the Maryland State Police with his “best legal analysis” on how to implement the new policy to comply with the Court’s decision even though - he wrote— he still thinks it will lead to “more deaths and more pain in a country already awash in gun violence.”
Good guys with guns
“Gun owners with carry permits are the most law-abiding people on the face of the planet,” said Pennak. “They don’t commit crimes.”
I’ve known Pennak, who is a constitutional lawyer, since 2012. That’s about when MSI was formally formed and also when I started reporting on Washington, D.C’s laws on requiring 17 steps to buy a gun to possess inside the home.
My Maryland roots overlapped with my new interest in getting a gun myself — something my gun-owning Baltimore father opposed as being too dangerous for a girl. Pennak’s daughter and wife in Maryland are both well trained and will be applying for permits now.
“If you look at ‘shall issue,’ there has been a wave of reform in state laws on carrying of a firearm outside the home, and Maryland is coming kicking and screaming into the modern era,” Pennak said. “It’s about time.”
Here come the gun applicants
Pennak said tens of thousands of applications have already been submitted, and the Maryland State Police Licensing Division told him that they are trying to process them within the 90-day statutory limit.
“There’s no stomach right now to stand in the way of the Supreme Court. I believe they are doing it in good faith,” said Pennak. “I’ve talked to the licensing division. I give them credit for setting it up fast and working overtime to get it done.”
MSI told people to apply for permits right after the ruling and tens of thousands have so far. Their website here has a ton of helpful information if you are considering applying. The police website isn’t fixed yet so MSI instructs applicants to just put “self defense” in the old space which required one of those good reasons.
The law on the steps it takes to get a carry permits still has the same requirements n Maryland. There is a 16-hour training requirement with one of the state’s certified instructors, a live-fire requirement, an extensive background check and fees.
The fight for Second Amendment rights
I first interviewed members of Maryland Shall Issue in 2012. The group’s members— who I became friendly with over the years— were determined, unyielding and fought relentlessly against their home state’s “shall issue” law. The group was a plaintiff in many lawsuits over the years, but they always got stuck at the Fourth Citcuit Appeal.
I gave a speech to MSI in September 2013 about gun control policies and my book Emily Gets Her Gun. I remember speaking to fewer than 100 people at the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company event in Severna Park, MD. I told Pennak recently that I admired their grit back then but never really thought they would succeed in Maryland.
In 2015, I spoke to their group as they rallied in Annapolis against another Democrat gun control law. I told them I understood personally what it is like to live in a place where the local elected leaders disregard our constitutional rights. I didn’t say it, but thought they were standing in the cold Chesapeake Bay wind for principle but not to actually get anything changed.
I was wrong.
After all this time, Maryland Shall Issue (which filed an amici brief in the New York gun case) won an enormous victory when the Supreme Court ruled that states can’t force American citizens to prove they need a carry permit. The same same group that I met in a rural firehouse with everything against them is now inundated with Marylanders asking for their help to get their carry permits and legally carry a gun.
I remember that I spoke to their group about my specific childhood memories about guns and crime growing up in Baltmore City. Along with my father’s private carry permit, I also told them about my step father’s guns in his sock drawer…
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